Defining Art in One Sentence or Less

Ed Mendez’s photo of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker"

Ed Mendez’s photo of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker"

Donna Thompson

Interdisciplinary, My Take

October 14, 2014

The School of Performing Arts is where students come to develop and perfect their craft. It is also where the larger community can come to experience and share the creations of their talent and labor.

As a new M.F.A. student in the Arts Leadership program here at Virginia Tech, I have been asking myself this question: “What is Art?” The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”

My own definition of art is the sharing of one’s inner thoughts, feelings, emotions, visions, and struggles through multiple mediums. To me, “art” is everywhere - - it surrounds us on a day to day basis.

We can see art in the bridges we cross in our daily travels, the buildings in which we step inside every day to go to work, and in the mechanics of the vehicles we rely on to get us to these places.

Yes, we also have what is referred to as the “fine arts,” but I think there is more to “art” than that. Art is inspiration meeting expression and ultimately creating discussion. We may not always recognize the art around us, but it is there.

As I thought more about what art is to me, I began to wonder how others would define “art.” I wanted to know the opinions and viewpoints of my fellow colleagues and was curious as to whether or not we would have a common definition of what “art” is or even a common thread within our individual definitions.

So I sent out an invitation to students, faculty, and staff in the School of Performing Arts asking them to describe their definition of “art."

Knowing this is not an easy question to answer and one could write a book on the subject as Leo Tolstoy did with his book "What is Art," I chose to limit everyone to answers in one sentence or less. Below are the responses I received:

"Art is the perception of value in a creation that touches, inspires appreciation, and enriches the human experience." Wallace Easter, Associate Professor, Music - Horn

“Art is the ability make connections, tell a story, and inspire others through the usage of color, music, movement, and craftsmanship.” - Daveisha Gibson, M.F.A. Candidate in Arts Leadership

“To me, art is creative expression with a purpose.” - Lindsey Bass, double major in Mechanical Engineering and Vocal Performance

“Art is our first language… It is a universal language.” Willie Caldwell, M.F.A. Candidate in Arts Leadership

“Art is a completely subjective physical manifestation of the inner machinations of a person's mind.”  - Shea McEnerney, major in Theatre, Lighting Design

“Life is art, it's in everything we do and how we perceive what happens around us, within our lives it broadcasts in different ranges.” Kristal Firman, M.F.A. Candidate in Costume Design

is an attempt to express
an individual or collective
perception of reality
that necessitates
communication techniques.”
David Wedin, Assistant Technical Director, Theatre

"Art is possibility embodied, creativity unbound.” Naphtali Fields, M.F.A. Candidate in Directing & Public Dialogue

“Art is a mirror we make, showing, disillusioning, entrancing....” Charles Dye, Assistant Professor, Cinema Production

As you can see, no one answer matches another. They are all unique and individual to the person's perception. We seem to have an understanding of what “art” is, but we do not have a concrete definition for the word “art.”

Will we ever come to agree on a specific ideal of what art really is, or is that the beauty of it all? Do we need to?
I invite you to share your thoughts with me and share what “art” means to you - - in one sentence or less.

Give us your take in the talkback.

comments powered by Disqus

Donna Thompson

Donna is a candidate in the MFA in Arts Leadership program at Virginia Tech.

To make a gift to the School of Performing Arts visit the link below. Designate your gift to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Once you select the College a secondary field will open and you may then designate the School of Performing Arts.

Make a Gift
load indicator